What was your New Year’s resolution last year? Did you keep it? If not, how long did you stick to your resolution before reverting to your previous habits, deciding that the resolution was too lofty? Or did you simply forget that you made it? Rather than focusing on a New Year’s resolution—a decision to change as quickly as one flips over the page of a calendar—consider instead setting a New Year’s goal. To hold yourself accountable and achieve genuine change, make your goals SMART, and encourage your students to do the same.
What are SMART Goals?
When one establishes a goal but lacks a plan to achieve it, the path to success may be challenging. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Following the SMART goal planning and execution process will help guide you throughout the year. When it comes to establishing SMART goals for your students and classroom, keep the following framework in mind.
Create Specific Goals
Rather than committing to something undefinable, establish a quantifiable or qualifiable goal. For example, rather than setting a generic goal of improving your students’ grades, commit to improving the median of your students’ overall averages from an 88 to a 91. If you want to experience more parental involvement, choose a single benchmark such as parent-teacher conference participation as the area where you will strategize a solution for higher engagement. By making your goals specific, you can more narrowly focus on the steps needed to achieve success.
Create Measurable Goals
Working toward a goal is all about creating a shift—moving from a starting point to an endpoint. When a goal can’t be measured, how will you know if you’ve achieved it? For example, if you wanted to help your students have more fun in class, how would you measure their fun levels? Unless you invent a fun-o-meter if student satisfaction is your goal, then you’ll want to find a way to quantify it. For example, survey students at the end of every marking period to ask them to rate, on a scale of one to five, how much they enjoy coming to your classroom. The key is to understand where you are today, and what success will look like, and then identify a measurement scale to prove movement in the right direction.
Create Achievable Goals
Creating an achievable goal means focusing on something that is within the sphere of your influence to impact. For your classroom, this may mean higher participation in after school social events for your students, improved spelling test scores, or creating a more participatory learning environment. Hoping to reduce absenteeism due to illness or truancy may not be something that you, as a single teacher, can influence. You may need greater buy-in and support from your district’s leadership, your fellow faculty and staff, and parents and guardians to reduce absences significantly. Stick to goals that are achievable with the resources, time, and influence available to you.
Create Realistic Goals
You should feel confident setting goals that will challenge you to experience marked improvements in your classroom, but still, be realistic. If your goal period is one calendar year, there is only so far you will be able to move your needle. Perhaps you want to improve your students’ standardized test scores. If your classroom is currently averaging a C+, it may not be realistic to achieve an A+ average over the course of a few months. Instead, consider moving from a C+ to a B. Setting a realistic goal leaves you room to overachieve, and it won’t break your confidence if you fall just short.
Create Time-Bound Goals
What we all love about tying goals and resolutions to the New Year is that we have a built-in, failsafe deadline. December 31 is going to come around year-after-year, and 365 days feels like plenty of time to stay focused on school goals so make sure that you give yourself a deadline so that you don’t lose sight of your objectives. You may want to align your goals with the school year or semester, or another appropriate benchmark.
Make sure you are giving yourself enough time to make a positive impact. At the same time, make sure that the time allotted offers a way to prioritize your goal. You may want to break down your objective into smaller benchmarks. For example, if you aim to improve your average student math scores from 85 to 90 from September to June, set a goal to achieve at least an 87 average by the end of the second marking period. Use your progress at that point to adjust your strategies accordingly to achieve ultimate success.
This New Year, take the pressure off of setting lofty resolutions. Focus, instead, on specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goals. More importantly, focus on the types of outcomes that matter most to your students, and that will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment come next New Year’s Eve.
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